In a serious setback to the idea of State protection and security, a surrendered rebel leader and his civilian driver were shot death inside the 7th Bn Manipur Rifles complex, Khabeisoi in Imphal East District on 21st June at around 8pm.
Bullet ridden bodies of ex People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) chairman, Ningombam Nabachandra alias Nongdrenkhomba (58) and his civilian driver Leishangthem Sanjit (41) were found in their quarter inside 7th Bn MR Khabeisoi complex only on the next day after their assassination. While the chairman’s body was found in the bedroom, his driver’s body was recovered from the kitchen.
The incident came to light after Ningombam Nabachandra’s wife reported to the concerned authorities in the complex when he failed to answer or return her calls. The gunshots at Type-II, quarter no. 3 on 21st June apparently failed to trigger any alarm or rescue response, though the kitchen was marked with tell-tale signs of struggle. Four empty cartridges of 9mm pistol and three projectiles were recovered from the spot. The police speculated that the crime must have been committed by not less than four people judging from the nature of the crime scene. Yet the police failed to explain how the armed assailant penetrated the security barrier of the battalion though they said that Lai Haraoba celebration that evening could have muted the firing sounds. However, the security lapse not only in terms of entry with arms but the extent of ineptness for the security to miss the gun shots has completely shaken their credibility.
Notably Ningombam Nabachandra’s wife, Ningombam Indira pointed fingers at the State and questions the State’s sincerity in providing protection. She feels that such murder within the State’s fortified complex, which supposedly shelters surrendered militants, has belittled the State Government’s efforts/attempts to bring militants into the mainstream and will be a significant deterrent as a death warrant for the surrendered militants.
Ningombam Nabachandra was sheltered within the security campus after he surrendered on the 15 of December 2014 in a ceremonious event attended by the Chief Minister. On the same occasion, chairman of KCP ( KK Nganba group) Chongtham Manglemjao along with 58 of his cadres also laid down arms.
The turn of events was dramatic in the immediate aftermath of the killing. A week later, the State Police led by the DGP, LM Khaute announced that KCP (KK Nganba group) including S/S (self styled) chairman Chongtham Manglemjao alias KK Nganba and S/S general secretary Tongbram Sanjit alias Pari alias Boy were involved in murdering Ningombam Nabachandra. They claimed that out of the five arrested with weapons, two were directly involved in the crime, namely Leichongbam Naocha alias Malangba and Ahongsangbam Kingson alias Yaiphaba. The police further claimed that two 9mm pistols used by them were also duly recovered.
The irony is that the KCP (KK Nganba group) is also currently under Suspension of Operation agreement with the government and their 34 cadres are sheltered in the same 7th Bn Manipur Rifles complex along with 4 other groups since the SoO camp of the 8th IRB is also located inside the 7th Bn MR campus.
On the second day after the assassination, Ningombam Nabachandra’s former group the proscribed PREPAK had claimed that the duo were assassinated by the outfit’s Red Army for deserting the party and swindling a huge amount of party’s fund. They later refuted the State Police claim and reaffirmed that they assassinated Ningombam Nabachandra and his civilian driver and denied any link with KCP (KK Nganba) group. Amidst this drama of claim and counter claim, the fact remains that Ningombam Nabachandra and his civilian driver was shot death inside the security campus and remained unnoticed until the following day.
The insecurity of the people who laid down arms has always been an ignored agenda in the State. Till date the State Government has not designed any rehabilitation policy to address the economic and emotional needs in the aftermath of such ceremonious exercises. In 2015, a group of surrendered militants across party line submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister on such anomalies. Some of those signatories said their insecurity continues if not multiplied in the aftermath. They shared that they are fed and confined within the campus with no certainty about their future and economic sustainability to support their families.
The 7th Bn MR also shares the campus with ex militants of SoO camp since the 8th IRB is also located inside. Last December there was a news report about a confession that cooked human meat was served to some cadres. Such horrendous stories are now punctuated with the recent daring murder right inside the security campus which raises pertinent questions about the State’s intent towards the surrendered militants.
*People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak is an armed insurgent group in Manipur demanding a separate and independent homeland. PREPAK was formed under the leadership of R. K Tulachandra in 1977.
(By Grace Jajo)
The views reflected in this piece are that of the author and need not necessarily be that of TNT-The Northeast Today